Cafe con leche. Zumo de naranja. Cereal.
I extracted the badly mangled, waterlogged, photocopied map from my back pocket and looked for something in the area to walk or metro to. The Palacio Real (Royal Palace) was not too far away, and seemed a good place to spend my morning. The metro was an exchange away, or I could walk to the another station La Latina for a direct line, which really was completely unnecessary as it was only one stop from there, but since I'd paid for the 5-day tourist metro pass, I felt I should give it a go at least once or twice!
The Opera station lets out in front of the Royal concert hall, which oddly enough completely obscures the palace. It isn't until you walk around the other side of this building that the magnificent structure emerges.
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As I wandered past the empty cafes facing the grand structure, I approached the fountain that sits front and center to the palace. At least three tourist groups surrounded it, but what caught my eye (or rather, ear) was the guitarist playing Spanish flamenco music sitting in the small courtyard surrounding the fountain. I found a shady spot, within ear of the guitarist, and sat to write.
Once the grumbles in my belly overpowered the strums of Spanish guitar, I made my way from the Palace to find something to eat. As I wandered away from this regal venue, playing Frogger with Spanish traffic, I spotted a little tapas bar with promise, called La Mi Venta. As I ducked my head in, my heart lept… this was finally the type of place I'd been looking for! Large drying legs of Jamón Ibérico hanging from the ceiling, a small asador in the corner, and a few grumpy old Spanish men running the place. Perfect!
The food here did not disappoint. The food counter illuminated a trip down memory lane, with tortilla, boquerones, caracoles, and even… yes there they were… pimientos de padrón! [link - because they are so good yet so few people outside of Spain know them]
This place was so good, I vowed to return.
La Mi Venta
Plaza de la Marina Española, 7
+34 91 559-50-91
rating: 5 feet
verdict: superbly authentic and delicious. Maybe a little pricey, but what the hell… you're on vacation!
After this belly filling lunch, I wandered many of the smaller streets rising above the palace until I stumbled back into Puerta del Sol. The streets of Madrid are a veritable maze, but I was finding that I knew my way around quite quickly. Perhaps the Spanish street names were proving easier to remember as they tickled a part of my brain barely used for nearly 25 years, or maybe I was simply so enthralled with Madrid that committing it to memory was to be expected, but I found that I could very quickly find anywhere I'd been on the map, or find my way back to the hostel from any random street I found myself on. Simply put, the meanderings of the day always comfortably led me back to Calle de la Cabeza.